J-31 Could Bring One Punch To China's Air Power : Chinese Experts

China's mysterious fifth-generation J-31 stealth fighter jet, set to make its debut later this month, could form a lethal tandem with the country's existing J-15 carrier-based fighter aircraft, says a Chinese military expert.

The J-31, also known as "Gyrfalcon," or Falcon Hawk by some military enthusiasts, is a twin-engine, mid-size fifth-generation jet fighter currently under development by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. The jet, set to make its debut at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition on Nov. 16, has already been seen performing test flights and stunts after arriving at the city of Zhuhai in south China's Guangdong province ahead of the event.

There is speculation that the J-31 could become China's next carrier-based aircraft. With its compact size, it is said that the J-31 could boost China's development of mid-sized aircraft carriers and improve the overall combat ability of the People's Liberation Army's aircraft carrier battle groups to the extent that the PLA Navy will not be at a disadvantage even against the US Navy.

J-31 Fighter Jet
J-31 Fighter Jet

Military experts told the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, however, that the J-31's slim design comes from the compression of its fuel tank and artillery compartment, and that China's inferior fighter technology means the J-31's specifications and firewpower might compare unfavorably to America's F-35C all-weather stealth multirole fighter. China should therefore remain cautious when touting the capabilities of the J-31, People's Daily said.

Cao Weidong, a researcher at the PLA Naval Military Academic Research Institute, believes the J-31 does indeed carry significant possibilities, but must undergo major transformation and verification in order to become an effective carrier-based aircraft. 

At the moment, the J-15 is the main fighter on China's sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. If the J-31 is also introduced to carrier service, the two could work together to provide a strong one-two punch, Cao said. Even though the J-31 has a shorter range, its advanced phased array radar and avionics as well as its stealth features means it can be launched first to "kick down the door" before the J-15 is sent to continue the assault, he added.
Meanwhile, the official newswire Xinhua said in a commentary that the debut of the J-31 has three points of significance. First, it is the first time China will be showing off a fifth-generation fighter, and the world is waiting to see just how far the country's military technology has advanced. If there are unresolved problems with the plane it will be a huge embarrassment for China on the international stage.

Second, the J-31 debut is also a sales platform because it is a plane that could very well enter the export market in the future. Though China has exported military technology in the past, it has tended to be one or two generations behind and this is the first time it will be bringing out a product that is on the cutting edge.

Third, if the J-31 can be sold on the global market then it will open up a new road for China's arms industry. The J-31 did not start off as as PLA project and was developed by independent aviation research and investment. If it can receive the endorsement of the PLA it could bring in a lot more private investment and competition to lift the industry to the next level.


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